Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What's in a contract?

contract

noun
1. a binding agreement between two or more persons that is enforceable by law

Definition courtesy of dictionary.reference.com

I'm not entirely fond of how meaningless contracts are becoming in sports these days, both from the side of players and management.

We're in an age where ridiculous contracts are thrust upon players after one or two good performances, and expectations rocket in an unfounded manner. Athletes are only human, and they jump on the ridiculous sums of money thrown at them, which sets up a variety of problems.

1. The Christiano Ronaldo Effect
Christiano Ronaldo was a diamond in the rough when Manchester United signed him. There was the potential to be incredibly skilled, but it was lost under the pretty-boy, diving antics of an annoying little bugger. They shaped him into one of the most skilled midfielders in the world, and built a team system where he would have had to make a conscious effort not to succeed. How does he repay this? Real Madrid makes a very public campaign to sign him from Man U while still under contract, and instead of publicly denying them, or at least showing a little class and loyalty to the team that made him a star, he went out of his way to jerk United around. What a douche. In reality, he's good, but he's not incredible. Like I said, Manchester United have built a system in which it's impossible for him not to succeed, but he requires that team system to show his class. Note, the difference in his play in the last Premiership campaign compared to his Euro performance.

While he was a smart signing by United, Real Madrid are looking to reap rewards, and it would be the decent thing for Ronaldo to play out his contract length at Old Trafford, then see where the future takes him. But he agreed to stay with United for the period of time, and should honour that agreement, regardless of current form.

2. The Andrei Arshavin Effect
I'm happy Arshavin sucked so hard in the semi-final against Spain, because it seemed to calm everyone down. Thing is, he's good, but he's not amazing. And yet you had every owner and manager out there shitting themselves and upping his price, while not really having any clue who he was or what he was all about.

What may have unfortunately happened, is what Chelsea did with Andrei Shevchenko. Take a player who's fantastic under certain conditions, thrust him into a brand new situation with a retarded amount of money, only to find out he can't operate in the new manner. When a player is handed such a huge contract based on a very limited scope of their play, it's incredibly dangerous, because it sets them up for a huge fall. They wind up being the huge waste of money and talent, rotting away at some big-name club who can't move them because their name has lost so much of its oomph.

3. The Ray Emery Effect
This is a follow-up to the Arshavin Effect, what happens when that big player loses their class. In the NHL, you can choose not to honour the contract you mistakenly signed with a player by doing something called a "buy-out". My understanding of it is that, once you decide you don't want a player, you can effectively make them a free agent by paying off 1/3 or 2/3 (depending on age) of their remaining salary, over the time remaining in their contract, and you effectively wash your hands of that player. Which is absolutely ridiculous.

You signed them. You're the retard. Get on with it.

Essentially, this post comes at the tail end of a major football international tournament and the beginning of the free-agent signing season, which is when the Gods of sport have decided that all ridiculous contracts must be handed out.

Players are picking up obscene (typically undeserved) amounts of money to go from place-to-place, and fans are left watching and wondering what the hell is happening.

Liverpool has decided to go after Spurs' striker Robbie Keane, who still has 4 years remaining on his contract. And yet the BBC headline is: Liverpool face battle for Keane. How the fuck are you facing battle for a player who is contractually obliged to stay put? It's not a battle, it's asking nicely if you can maybe pay an inordinate sum to have the rights to the player. And if you're told no, you wait until the contract is up. They're doing the same shit with Gareth Barry at Villa, who still has two years left on his contract there.

There is no honour left in sports. Well, most would argue there was none to begin with. But a player like Gareth Barry, who came through the Villa youth ranks, and now captains the side, to be pissing about with them, is plain shameful. Absolutely disgraceful behaviour. But hell, he only signed a contract, so there's nothing really holding him back, is there?

1 comment:

Phil said...

Agreed...

There is an interesting twist, however, as loyalty to a club can ironically be demonstrated by leaving it at the right time. For example, a player like Samir Nasri signed a new contract at Marseille in March so that the team that is his hometown club would be able to make more money off his transfer fee. When the progression of a clearly gifted player like Nasri is at stake, then breaking a contract can take place with both parties as winners - the selling club gets a good amount of money and the player gets his deserved chance to shine at a stage which is clearly more befitting of his ability.

The above argument also explains why I do not sympathise with Cristiano Ronaldo. He has already shone at arguably the biggest club in the world at the moment, so the move to Madrid is not about extracting some untapped potential. It is rather a form of greed - having signed a new contract just last year, Mr Ronaldo should know better.

Arsene Wenger himself predicted the end of transfer fees this year - Fifa rules allowing players to buy out their contracts will lead to the emergence of one-year contracts as the norm. In a world where every transfer is a free, the amount previously put into transfer fees will be paid in the form of massive wages for players. It's already the case that players joining on free transfers get large signing bonuses (Flamini pocketed about 4mil just by signing his name on a piece of paper Milan)

Wenger says: "A team sport needs time and stability and all the rules in our game go against that." Players should honour contracts and move for sporting reasons, while managers should be given time to build a squad with a clear sporting plan. But the man from Strasbourg is right, unfortunately...